October 16, 2008 in City

Detective’s harassment case in the hands of jurors

Staff writer

After a two-week trial centering on alleged domestic violence, jurors begin deliberating today in the felony harassment trial of suspended Spokane police Detective Jay Mehring.

He did not take the stand in his own defense; his attorney wrapped up Wednesday by calling back the detective’s former wife, Lisa Mehring. She told the jury she never wanted the case prosecuted, but it took on a life of its own because of a “political agenda” driven by Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindsey said in his closing argument that Lisa Mehring told eight people that Jay Mehring had threatened to kill her or burn down her home.

Lisa Mehring has testified that she never was afraid her husband would kill her but that he did say he would “destroy” her and “burn everything” the couple had worked for during their 18-year marriage.

She told the jury she testified under threats from the prosecutor to have her jailed for contempt if she didn’t take the stand.

Lindsey argued Wednesday that her testimony was “minimizing” what she previously told her divorce attorney and her close friends, police Sgts. Dave Overhoff and Troy Teigen, in March 2007 – further evidence she’s a victim of domestic violence.

“You’ve witnessed a fantastic example of a victim of domestic violence,” the prosecutor said. “The evidence is unequivocal that he placed her in fear of bodily injury or death.”

But defense attorney Chris Bugbee said the prosecution’s case was riddled with inconsistencies from witnesses who he suggested had their own motives.

The prosecution described Lisa Mehring as “controlled and manipulated” by her husband, Bugbee said, but there was “absolutely no evidence of that introduced during the trial.”

She admitted to exaggerating and lying during her testimony, Bugbee told the jury, and she described a secret credit card account she used to finance a trip to Hawaii without her husband’s knowledge.

When Jay Mehring found out about the account, he didn’t confront his wife, but waited a week to bring up the issue after scheduling a joint session with a marriage counselor, who is also the Spokane Police Department’s psychologist.

“How many domestic violence situations go see a marriage counselor?” Bugbee asked.

“This isn’t an extraordinary case of domestic violence,” the defense attorney told the jury. “They haven’t even shown you any domestic violence.”

Bugbee asked Lisa Mehring why she called 911 in March 2007, asking for two sheriff’s deputies to stand by her family home while she retrieved personal items. She said Overhoff and her attorney, Shannon Deonier, told her to call 911, and she trusted their advice at a time when she was upset and emotional over her deteriorating marriage.

Earlier Wednesday, Judge Michael Price denied a second defense motion to dismiss the charge against Jay Mehring. He also rejected a companion motion for a mistrial based on a newspaper account detailing the court’s earlier ruling declining to dismiss the charge.

Bill Morlin can be reached at (509) 459-5444 or by e-mail at billm@spokesman.com.

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